The theme was Agriculture at the Crossroads — Energy, Farm & Rural Policy and it was obvious that energy was the headliner at USDA’s 2007 Outlook Forum last week.
The plenary session of the Forum featured some of the top names in agribusiness – ADM CEO Patricia Woertz, Cargill president Greg Page and CHS president John Johnson, together with Red Caveney of the American Petroleum Institute. The panel was moderated by Scott Kilman of the Wall Street Journal.
Woertz started off by saying that ADM intends to use a “holistic” approach to meet food and energy needs. “Our approach is to see these global needs–for food, heat, light, mobility, security and a healthy environment holistically. To see them all as fundamental human needs, that are—in fact— interconnected.”
Page stated that Cargill’s philosophy was based on “balancing our agri-foods and biofuels businesses in a way that helps meet our vision of nourishing people. For us, this balance is best maintained through policies that are market-driven, trading arrangements that are open and compliant with existing agreements, and production and use that benefits the environment.”
Johnson compared the current biofuels boom to reality television. “If American Idol is the most watched television program in the country, I think its fair to say that energy, global warming and renewable fuels are now among the most watched topics in our nation.” Johnson went on to urge more incentives for new technology over mandates to increase alternative fuel use.
As a reality check, Caveney told members of the Outlook Forum that it is unlikely the United States will ever be totally independent of the need for foreign oil. He said there are three ways the industry can provide energy security – efficiency, technology and diversity.
“First, America’s energy companies must continue to improve their own energy efficiency, and encourage energy efficiency in other industries and by the American people; second, we must increase the use of advanced energy technologies that allow us to develop our resources cleanly and responsibly; and third, we must increase the diversity of our oil and natural gas supplies, both here at home and from around the world, while alternative and renewable sources of energy continue their rapid rates of growth.”
All presentations from the Forum are available in webcast and text form on the USDA website.
USDA Radio has several reports from the Forum:
Woertz (1 min MP3)
Page (1 min MP3)
Johnson (1 min MP3)
Caveney (1 min MP3)